July 16 2003 12:00 AM ET
Prison guard wins $624,000 in antigay harassment case
A Massachusetts jury has awarded a Suffolk County corrections officer $624,000 after finding he was harassed at work because he's gay. Michael Salvi's car was twice vandalized while parked on the street at work and children's alphabet blocks glued together to spell "fag" were hand-delivered to his front porch, according to the complaint. Jurors at a Suffolk superior court found Salvi--who did not disclose his sexual orientation at work--was harassed by coworkers in the Suffolk County sheriff's department who circulated rumors about him, said his attorney, Robert Berluti. But it did not agree that Salvi's transfer to different work assignments was retaliation for his complaints about the harassment. Berluti said his client, who is in his early 30s, attempted suicide by jumping off the Neponset Bridge but survived. Eventually, he quit the job in April 2000.
Nancy Shilepsky, an employment attorney with Perkins, Smith, & Cohen, told The Boston Globe the jury award "is signaling that...this kind of aggressive homophobia is no longer considered acceptable by jurors in Massachusetts." Anne Powers, general counsel for the Suffolk County sheriff's department, said the department would ask the judge to set aside the verdict, saying the evidence does not support it. She declined to disclose the reasons for the request and would not discuss specifics of the case.